I'm at the age when I have to start going to funerals at an alarming rate.

When it comes to my friends, who were all non-theist, that is not a problem - they chose a neutral ceremony - but aunts, uncles and old neigbors are dying off fast, and some of them were Christians.

I feel not attending their funerals would be disrespectful, but singing psalms and pretending I'm praying makes me feel really bad! Almost as bad as if I hadn't turned up at all..

Your 2 cents on this?

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I'd probably go to the funerals of people who were important to me but politely abstain from the praying and singing. If anyone asked about it I'd respond "I'm not religious however this person was important to me so I feel I should be here to pay my respects."
I agree with Becca. I have no problem sitting or standing silently during religious song or prayer. I have attend funerals and baptisms expecting to sit through this sort of thing. However, living in the South, it seems like you can't get more than 5 people together for a meal without someone insisting it is not finished cooking until the food has been blessed.

I don't bow my head in mock prayer, or lip sync hymns. I'll sit quietly and maintain eye contact with whomever is leading the charade so they know not all of their captive audience are sheep. So far the respect has been mutual and nobody has ever questioned me about my piety, or lack of.
I completely agree. This past year and a half I've been to my fair share of funerals and I just go, give my condolences to the family, speak with relatives and friends in common and go my way. I don't participate in the religious service itself, if there is any, or the singing. Most of the people who know me already know how I feel about religion so they don't really try to "make" me be part of it.
Sing away, nobody will judge you for it and you're only there because of your relationship with the deceased, their family and friends, not the imaginary friend. I sing any number of non-religious songs and don't expect anyone to think I associate with the sentiments. It doesn't do any good to create a stir at a funeral, so sing away and blend in - it's just a way of paying your respects to the people concerned, not to a supposed supernatural power.
I would feel dishonest if I sang a hymn

Music is just music. I don't see how this would be more dishonest than participating in a ritual dance with African animists, or helping my neighbors hide chocolate Easter eggs in the garden for their children to find.
To each, his or her own. For me, I can happily sing along with "Nothing you can say can take me away from my guy" and not expect anyone to think I'm gay. I'd guess that if you flick through your own music collection you'll find some tracks there that you like in which the singer is praising the "lord" or just mentioning in passing. Would you take offence at the Stylistics "You'll never get to heaven if you break my heart", for example? What about George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", along with all it's "Hare Krishna" references? It's all fine with me, even if it offended the authors of "He's so fine". And there's another thing. Would you ban the Shangri-Las from your playlist because of the group's name? Probably not, but I hope this shows that you could easily go to real extremes on this, and for me it's just a question of where you draw the line.
I'll occasionally sing Christmas carols. To me, singing "Away in a Manger" is no more indicative that I believe in Christianity than singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" means I believe in Santa Claus. I just wouldn't make a habit of it, but as a one-off, I don't mind singing along. I do get offended by a lot of trite Christian pop, though I can compartmentalise earlier hymns and carols from a bygone age, and see them in a different context.
Well, I can appreciate anyone who chooses to take a harder line than I would. That doesn't necessarily mean that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We all choose to draw the line somewhere. It's just a question of where.
I was last in church for my father's funeral last August. He was a devout Catholic, so it was a very Catholic event. I was a pall bearer (would you consider it prostituting yourself to carry your own father's coffin?), and not only did I sing (as best I could, under the circumstances) but I also, at the request of my mother, took communion. She specifically asked my to do so and said it was what my father would have wanted. Personally, I don't believe it would have been an issue for my Dad, but I went along with it to keep my mother happy and not cause any more upset than there needed to be. Does that make me a hypocrite? Eating the wafer meant nothing to me. Was it an outward sign to others in the church that I was "a believer"? Perhaps some of the more distant family members who don't know me so well would have interpreted it that way. Still, for me the important thing was for the funeral to pass off without incident as respectful a way as possible to my father.
So yes, funerals and weddings are times when I can be lured into a church. But once inside I don't feel the need to treat it as the house of my enemy. It's a place where I have been invited by the deceased (if a church funeral was their choice), their family and friends. I don't feel that I'm hanging up my atheism at the door just by singing along with a few songs that may well have meant something to the deceased.
What about George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", along with all it's "Hare Krishna" references?

Actually, that song makes me think of how long it takes to reach orgasm...I wonder if anyone else thought of that...
I was last in church for my father's funeral last August. He was a devout Catholic, so it was a very Catholic event. I was a pall bearer (would you consider it prostituting yourself to carry your own father's coffin?), and not only did I sing (as best I could, under the circumstances) but I also, at the request of my mother, took communion.

The only thing that indicates is that you respect your parents. And it's a good thing to do, regardless of differences in beliefs. No point in causing extra pain to your Mum.
Actually, I identify with the part in Amazing Grace about being blind and now seeing!

Sometimes I think of singing as a little bit like acting...the lyrics are not always going to be my view or situation.
I completely agree with Daniel's statement. I would feel like I was "faking it". I would rather maintain respectful silence. There is no way that I could possibly sing 'Amazing Grace'.

Maybe I feel so strongly because I was once a religious person and once believed the message and sentiment of the hymns... now, I no longer believe the message and I couldn't possibly pretend to just "go along with the program". When hymns or prayers takes place, I simply bow my head and think about something else. It is difficult but the important thing is being there as a family member. My discomfort is secondary. Funerals and weddings are family events...not just "religious" ceremonies.
That's right: Sometimes the Kool-Aid is just Kool-Aid...
Bearcat,

I think you and I agree on all of this in every meaningful way. Others will have their own point of view, of course, and that's fine. This discussion will help me when it comes to my parents' funerals, assuming they dont just fade away without leaving any remains. I've thought that this would be "any minute now" for 2 or 3 years, so there has been lots of time to consider the issues and still I'm not certain.

As to the pallbearer question, I didn't think about this before. I guess, if the many trips I've made to his home and town, the agonizing decisions I've had to make on his part, the difficult discussions with his doctors and with him, where I was left thinking what is "right" and what is "best" and what "he wants" when he can't express it, the many thousands of dollars spent in his care, not telling him so he wouldn't think I was 'sacrificing' anything, the discomfort of many airport trips (which I hate) and plane rides (which I hate), and being in his town (which is a backward, overbearing, intolerant, self-rightious place that I hate), all don't mean respect, the pallbearer thing probably won't either. Plus, my back is not that good any more. Plus, if that's the respectful thing, why not go all out, and help with the embalming, body preparation, and digging the grave? I don't get it. I truly love my dad, and my mom, but singing at their funerals seems more like playacting, and playacting, seems like disrespect, not respect.

For someone whose family had more liberal beleifs, such that the hymns were just going through the motions, singing "Nearer my god to thee" like "rudolf the red nosed reindeer", really might be the respectful thing. I actually envy that. So it's different for each of us. Coming from fundamentalist/evangelical background, and making the really hard choices in how to be honest with them about things that they truly feel strongly about, it seems different.

Each of us has our own lives, I won't begrudge other people their decisions and beleifs. This discussion has helped me, significantly, with mine. No coffin carrying, and no prayers or hymns for me. Also no grave digging (unless it's in a prairie with no coffin and no tombstone, and no embalming fluid, which is what I would want for me), and I won't help with the embalming, no matter how nurturing that seems to others.


Thanks for expressing your thoughts, it helped with mine.

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